If you’re in a hurry, the moral of the story is simply this: Know your coverage, and MOST IMPORTANTLY shop around for the best rates using online quote tools like the one below — because it can save you a bunch of money.
Now on to the full story… I don’t know about you, but I had a hard time transitioning from a world where my parents paid for everything to a world where I had to figure out big, bad scary things for myself — like apartments, cell phone plans, and insurance. But, somehow I managed to do it — not gracefully, mind you — and lived to tell how you can learn from my mistakes.
Here are three steps just about anyone can take to get the most out of their car insurance policy — even those who know pretty much nothing at all about car insurance. (That includes me and many of my millennial friends.)
1. Check to make sure you actually have car insurance.
This might seem like the dumbest, most obvious thing ever written, but it’s worth saying. Sometimes you can drive for weeks, thinking you have car insurance, and then you get a call from Esurance that goes like this:
“Mr. Housman, we were wondering when you were going to renew your plan. It’s expired.”
“What? I thought I did that last week.”
“No, you started to renew it, but then you stopped.”
“I stopped because it got renewed.”
“No, it didn’t.”
It went back and forth like that for awhile before I had to accept that something had been lost in translation. There were no words I could say that would convince this woman that some other dude had told me I had renewed my policy for another six months of insurance.
2. Make sure your insurance is covering who you think it’s covering.
Thankfully, I was still covered in spite of this minor mix-up. The company will extend your policy for a few weeks while you decide on your renewal options. Unfortunately, that was the end of the good news:
“Mr. Housman, if you renew, would you like add anyone to your plan?”
“What?! I definitely already did that. A year ago. My girlfriend drives the car all the time.”
“No, you listed her as excluded.”
“No way. Impossible”
“I’m sorry, that’s what it says.”
“I think she’s driving the car as we speak.”
“That’s not good.”
And she was right. It was not good.
You see, when I thought I was including my girlfriend on my policy, I had in fact excluded her. Which, anyone with half a brain might realize, was the exact opposite of what I wanted.
It would be like if I set out to order her some birthday flowers and instead composed a long email breaking up with her. Exact. Opposite.
I quickly went to the website to check on this. Yup, she was excluded. I then read their policy to make sure they weren’t trying to trick me. I came across a post explaining what it means to have excluded and included drivers, and these passages jumped out at me:
That explains it in plain terms. Though I can’t lie, I was distracted by the fact that the dumb friend messing up in all their hypothetical scenarios is named “Drew.” Just like me. It felt like they had quickly updated the website just to make sure I felt an extra dose of shame.
I was clearly going too fast when I filled out my policy. Stupid, I know, but it’s the truth. Please let me have it in the comments. I will happily accept your flogging.
My girlfriend has driven my car thousands of miles. We sold her car recently, dropping down to one vehicle. My car became her daily driver. So, all this time, for more than a year, she hasn’t been covered by insurance. If she wasn’t an amazing driver, or if one of the millions of terrible drivers in Los Angeles had plowed into her, we’d have been in a world of hurt. Whoops.
I consider myself a smart guy, and the fact that I let something like that happen for so long proves that all of us should check in on our policies every once in awhile to make sure we aren’t making any very silly mistakes.
3. Shop around for the best policy.
While you’re checking to make sure everything is in order coverage-wise, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to shop around to see if you can find a cheaper policy.
Through whatever vortex of miscommunication I was sucked into earlier, I did not have an up-to-date policy. The upside was that I was free to look for a cheaper plan instead of mindlessly opting in for another six months.
It can be tempting to just continue on your current path so you don’t have to put any effort into hunting for a deal, but it’s worth it to take an hour and do your research. I tried the lazy way, and I’m actually happy it backfired.
I considered my options and price-compared many different companies. I love doing this kind of thing. I don’t by a pair of socks on Amazon without first making sure they are a best seller and that the five-star reviews are more convincing than the one-star reviews. I was shopping for a pair of 100% wool socks the other day and almost ended up with a pair that was 30% polyester. Thankfully, I did my research avoided that travesty.
So, I set about to use those same skills finding a new car insurance policy. After much searching, I found that every quote was in line with what I had been paying. That was until I tried one final company that I was loathe to even consider: Geico.
I don’t know if it’s their annoying mascots (Caveman, Gecko) or their nonstop pop-up ads on my favorite sites (that one of the guys giving a floating high five haunts my dreams,) but I’ve just never liked the company. That made it weird for me when they quoted me at a rate that was more than $200 cheaper per year than any other policy I searched.
I felt like Larry David in the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode where he falls in love with the Palestinian chicken restaurant. It was against his morals as a Jewish person to eat there, but that chicken was irresistible!
The Geico chicken proved to be too good for me to pass up. I made a quick phone call and ordered myself a policy. I can still despise their marketing, but at this point in my life it’s worth the huge savings to be a customer. If you want to compare some quotes, you can see what’s out there right here: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/three-easy-ways-to-save-money-on-car-insurance/
Hopefully this guide can help others avoid some of my pitfalls. Always remember, if you want someone INcluded on your policy, don’t EXclude them. I’m now off to brush up on the dictionary to make sure I’m not mixing up any other words I should have mastered as a fifth grader.